As I sit here in this Asian coffee house very far from home on this July 4th week, memories and thoughts on this holiday are flooding over me.
The 4th of July in America has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is a holiday of which my hometown of Atlanta excels. There are tons of fireworks, pool parties, and the always epic Peachtree Road Race.
I try to run the Peachtree Road Race every year I am in Atlanta. If you are not familiar with it, “The Peachtree” is a 10k race for runners ranging from Olympic athletes to overweight “speed walkers” dressed up like the Statue of Liberty. I fall somewhere in between these groups in both ability and intensity.
“The Peachtree” is always one of the highlights of my summer. The last time I was in America for it was five years ago. I, of course, bested Patrick Ku in a classic “good vs. evil” contest of athleticism and endurance. Good times.
Growing up, our neighborhood pool always had a day full of events for the entire family. There were piles of junk food and competitions of all varieties. The day was culminated by the “greased watermelon” game.
All the men would line up on the edge of the “deep end”. Someone would then toss a watermelon completely covered in Crisco into the middle of the 12 foot deep section of the pool. Guerilla warfare would then ensue. Men would stop at nothing to get the prized “greased melon” to the side of the pool first.
I don’t think there was a prize given to the winner, but it didn’t matter. Bloody noses, water soaked lungs, and gouged eyes were a small price to pay for the chance to be crowned king of this most masculine of all contests. I once had the palm of my left hand sliced open by a long toenail on the foot of an errant kick during the “scrum” for the watermelon. I never won. To this day it is a blight upon my athletic resumé.
Dinner was always an epic cookout in the cul-de-sac in front of my parent’s house. We would grill out and eat Dad’s incredible homemade ice-cream. Unbelievable. I would punch a Monk in the abdomen for a bowl of that ice-cream right now sitting in this hot, Asian coffee house.
The 4th was always perfectly concluded with a homegrown firework show. My Dad and our next door neighbor, Mr. Benton, would always make a run to the Tennessee border a few weeks prior and load the car full of fireworks (illegal in the state of Georgia). The entire neighborhood would gather for the show. The kids would run around spastically in euphoric excitement as the grownups lit up the sky with explosions and colors.
It was my own sort of Gentile bar mitzvah the year I was finally able to light the fireworks on my own. I felt like I was entering manhood in front of all my family and neighbors as I placed a Bic lighter to the wick that first time. One of the proudest moments of my life!
As I sit here in this Asian coffee house very far from home on this July 4th week, several things come to mind of which I am grateful regarding this holiday.
I am grateful for the memories of a childhood with family and friends during the 4th. I was raised in one of those idyllic neighborhoods. We knew everyone. We did things together, like fireworks and “greased watermelons” on the 4th of July. I am grateful for these memories and experiences.
I am grateful for a home country which celebrates the sacrifices others have made for us in order to live the lives we now enjoy. We have a government which is run for the people and by the people. We have our issues and problems, and lots of them. However, I am still very grateful for the access to and participation in our governing affairs which we as Americans enjoy and often take for granted.
Finally, though I am grateful to be an American, I am infinitely MORE grateful on this 4th of July week to be a part of the Kingdom of God. In the end, nations come and go. Earthly kings and kingdoms are as the grass; they flourish today and wither tomorrow. However, the Kingdom of God, where my loyalty and identity first and foremost lies, will last and flourish till eternity future.
Happy 4th of July!